The radio conversation this morning centered on a controversy brewing in New York/New Jersey over toll collectors. And it was an interesting enough topic that I just might discuss it in another post. But not today. Today, that conversation is simply a jumping-off point for the actual issue at hand…
In recent months, there has been a lot made of foul language. Much of it has come out of the White House, but not all of it. We recently discussed the Rahm Emmanuel controversy over the “R-word”. A couple of years ago, Michael Richards (“Kramer” of “Seinfeld” fame) nearly lost his career because he screamed the “N-word” at a heckler. And in this morning’s radio conversation, a toll collector angrily called a driver the “N-word”.
In all three of these situations – Mr. Emmanuel, Mr. Richards, and the toll collector – the offending word was accompanied by another offensive word that begins with F, which is used ubiquitously in our society. It’s a versatile little word. It can be a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb… pretty much anything it wants. It’s that flexible. But it’s also considered an obscenity. Decent people – or people who consider themselves “decent” – don’t use it in mixed company. Or they didn’t used to. Sadly, I hear it more and more frequently.
But in all three situations, the word we became angry over was not the generally-accepted “obscene” word beginning with F. It was the Other Word. The “R-word”, the “N-word”.
And the interesting thing is, had ANY other word been inserted where those “forbidden” words were, nobody would blink an eye. The “j-word”, formerly used to describe a donkey. The “a-word”, which is a vulgar description of a piece of anatomy. The “p-word”, another vulgar word to describe a part of the female anatomy, or the “d-word” to describe a similar part of the male anatomy. NONE of these would have received the blink of an eye, even though it could be argued that each and every one of these, possibly with the exception of the “j-word”, is a far worse and personal insult than “R” or “N”. Especially when accompanied with the “F-word”.
Have I lost you yet?
Here’s the question: Why is “The F-Word” so acceptable, but the “R-word” is not? Why are we so horrified when one person calls another the “N-word”, when any other – arguably worse – insult would be laughed off? And why is nobody dragging Chris Rock off to Rehab for doing exactly the same thing that Michael Richards did? (you don’t have to answer that one. Sadly, I am acutely aware of the answer.)